Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Deloitte

guy outside box

“Mr. Old Outside the Box”

  • 720 GMAT
  • (“Should have been a 730, but I came into the last Quant question with 3.5 minutes left so decided to double and triple check my answer because I figured it was like a free right answer. I *cough* ran out of time…stupid mistake.)
  • 3.69 GPA
  • (“Started at 4.25/4.5 but trended down during final two years when
    I held significant student governance positions while in school, more on this
    later”)
  • Undergraduate degree in finance and entrepreneurship at a Top 10 Canadian university
  • Work experience include two years in commercial banking as an analyst at the third largest Canadian financial institution and four years in retail investment management at the second largest Canadian investment management firm
  • “Took a one-year leave of absence from financial services (between those jobs) to manage my father’s 17-employee business and drive the exit plan for the company which was done at a 45% higher valuation than the year before I joined”
  • “While at my father’s business I created a computer program that reduced
    the time to produce a quote from 2.5 hours to 15 minutes, I later sold this
    program to two other manufacturers”
  • “Within my current investment practice, I’ve created a computer program that automatically sorts and ranks 2,000 stocks based on live data metrics from the market (essentially doing for free what a $600/month computer program does)”
  • Appeared over 100 times on the #1 ranked national radio and television newscasts
  • Extracurricular involvement includes serving as head of the faculty students association, representing the university and winning several international MBA and PhD-level business plan competitions; also founded an alumni donation program; serve as first president of a group of 12 business school alumni; former director of the local provincial triathlon association, currently a volunteer and group workout leader for a local elite youth triathlon team. player and team manager for a world top-15 ranked professional curling team. Competitive triathlete, most notably organizing and completing a 17-mile marathon swim which raised national awareness for active living
  • Goal: To pursue a financial services startup that “empowers consumers to manage their investments for a fraction of the cost while still receiving first class investment recommendations. The local resources where I currently live aren’t conducive to startups, and I don’t have the global perspective or overall high-level management perspective necessary to launch my business idea currently”
  • “Would love Sandy to tear me to shreds!”
  • 32-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 10%
Wharton: 25% to 30%
MIT: 20%
Northwestern: 20% to 30%
Chicago: 20% to 30%
Michigan: 30% to 40%
Yale: 20% to 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: Huh???

To be blunt, saying you want to get an MBA in order to gain the resources to start a company may be a good idea in the 3-D world we live in but it is not a good idea in the 2-D world of MBA admissions.

To wit: you state that you want to “enter an MBA program to pursue a financial services startup that empowers consumers to manage their investments for a fraction of the cost while still receiving first class investment recommendations.”

This, by way of background, builds off your current job (for four years) as a guy who advises sort of rich people like John Byrne about how much of his wealth to put into stocks and how much in bonds so that he and others like him can retire at 70 and comfortably move into a classy assisted living place when the time comes.

For the record, that job, as important as it is (especially to under-planned geezer types like me) is not considered an attractive niche in the global banking world by Top 10 business schools because it is 1. Not selective, and 2. Too real.

And those same B-schools will be asking why don’t you take your obvious energy, smarts and ideas and write a business plan for that idea, for real, which based on your record (viz. “I won several international MBA and PhD-level business plan competitions”), I assume you can do.

Ah, very cleverly, you anticipate this suggestion, and note: “The local resources where I currently live aren’t conducive to startups, and I don’t have the global perspective or overall high-level management perspective necessary to launch my business idea currently.”

Hmmmm, well you did say, “I would love Sandy to tear me to shreds!”

Here goes: Hey, pull up your panties, get a job in Palo Alto or even Toronto doing the same kind of Chartered Investment Manager, Certified Financial Planner shtick you are now doing, stop running triathlons and just cut back to marathons, and use the saved time to create a business plan to the usual suspects of VCs, angels, gullible relatives, and retired dudes from your industry. You will soon get a report card of sorts.

For a guy who seems like the Energizer Bunny of self-promotion and entrepreneurship:

To wit, a guy who:

–“created a computer program that reduced the time to produce a quote from 2.5 hours to 15 minutes” and sold it to two other manufacturers;

–created a computer program that automatically sorts and ranks 2,000 stocks;

–shared his marketing techniques across Canada;

— and who has appeared 100 times on the #1 ranked national radio and television newscasts across Canada . . .

the idea that you need an MBA to peddle yet another one of your ideas is going to be a tough sell, even for you.

“The local resources where I currently live aren’t conducive to startups, and I don’t have the global perspective or overall high-level management perspective necessary to launch my business idea currently.”

WE GIGGLE.

Even the humorless and fussy and cautious foot soldiers of the Adcom Army, well, they don’t giggle, but they feel a small pressure in their heads that is their equivalent of thought, and even though they may not care to or be able to articulate what that thought is, even they sense something does not compute with this story.

Here is some tough love. Business schools in general and in promoting themselves may claim to like entrepreneurs, but adcoms do not. For adcoms, starting companies is too risky and too hard to judge compared with the bright lines provided by grades, GMATs, and a more mainstream work history.

OK, let’s get back to basics.

Wharton, MIT, Kellogg, Booth, Michigan Ross, Yale?

Can you get into any of those places with any presentation of your basic stuff, meaning your low-ish and DECLINING grades, your 720 GMAT, your back-slapping, white-boy (but impressive in its way) leadership crap (partial list: head of the faculty students association, ran a volunteer organization comprised of 75 volunteers . . . won several international MBA and PhD-level business plan competitions . . .founded an alumni donation program which to-date has raised over $50,000 . . . and drum roll please, “player and team manager for a world top-15 ranked professional curling team”). Also sold your dad’s business, and now work at some semi-respectable job as a financial planner.

My advice would be to list all the leadership stuff in the normal way, e.g. as resume lines, and don’t expect a big whoop in response.

Adcoms often dislike student leaders, especially ones involved in business plan competitions and forming alumni clubs and triathlons. How come? They secretly believe those activities are for kids too stupid to realize the only point of college is to get great grades and apply to select jobs and then business school.

Adcoms certainly do not feel that those kind of self-serving and banal accomplishments stand in lieu of great grades. The purpose of an undergraduate education, in the eyes of select B-school adcoms, is for undergraduates to learn how to sit still, eat what is in front of them, and spit it back in class, on exams and in their sleep in ways that earn high grades. What you do IN ADDITION to that is your own business, but getting an A is Job #1.

You semi-knew that but got distracted by running meetings, making friends, and starting clubs.

My advice is to tone down the start-up idea, which sounds like an end run around your so-so academic performance and jobs, and just say, in a level way, hey, I’m a successful financial planner. I want to transition into a leadership role in this industry, which is undergoing great change, and I want an MBA to do that. My goals are to return to Canada and become an industry leader like X or Y. You can include in that song and dance the need for an MBA to lead an industry which is being, ahem, “disrupted” by robo investment products like Wealthfront, etc.

That is the way I would present myself to Kellogg, Booth, Michigan Ross, and Yale where you have some chance of getting in. For those schools, you still need to apologize about your GPA and say you mis-managed your time, although you did find your many, many leadership roles valuable.

At Wharton and MIT, where no matter what you do, this is going to be hard, I might swing for the fences and present your entrepreneurial idea, in some more intelligent way. You are a long shot at those places in any case, so why not go down posturing with your head proudly up your behind rather than groveling on your knees.